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Mumbai: Skygazers who keep watch on the movement of planets in our solar system were surprised when they did not see Mars – the Red Planet and next-door neighbor of Earth, Saturday November 11, 2023.
Turned out, Mars is on vacation from November 11 to 25, 2023.
Incidentally, these dates coincided with Diwali Holidays celebrations in India. So, is Mars on Diwali vacations?
No you guessed it wrong.
Mars is not on holiday. And, it can’t be. It has just become invisible due to an astral phenomenon called “Solar Conjunction”.
A planetary conjunction is when two or more planets come in close proximity to each other aligning together. The phenomenon is regular and gives a gala moment for those interested in astronomy.
Solar conjunction occurs when Earth and Mars, in their continuous orbit around the Sun, are obscured from each other by the Sun itself. During this time, Mars gets real cozy with the Sun, coming within 2 degrees of it.
This alignment renders the two planets temporarily invisible to each other. The phenomenon called Solar Conjunction happens every two years.
Solar Conjunction this year is from November 11 to 25, 2023 which will make Earth and Mars invisible if seen from the two planets.
During Solar Conjunction, any communication with spacecraft around Mars will also be seriously limited.
This isn’t the first time we’ve faced this blackout. Space agencies like NASA and China’s CNSA have been studying Mars for over 20 years, using spacecraft to uncover its secrets. But during Solar Conjunction, it’s like we’re on a space timeout.
Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other space use various strategies to deal with this. The space agencies cut power to some instruments, save data from others, and in some cases, they keep sending data to Earth, fully aware that some might get lost in the solar shuffle.
In another celestial event, the iconic rings of planet Saturn will become invisible 18 months from now because of what astronomers called “optical illusion”.
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